by Michelle Norris
THE school summer holidays may be coming to an end, but there’s still time to enjoy plenty of fun days out with the family - and the best part? They’re all within reaching distance of Essex.
Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire is just a 45-minute drive away from the county (approx) and with special animal experiences available all year round, it’s a real treat for families.
On a recent visit to the park, I was blown away by how close you really can get to the animals – this is not just a zoo but a full on interactive experience.
As the backdrop for Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ music video, the Park boasts over 400 animals including Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Cheetahs, Penguins, Meerkats, Monkeys, Birds, Reptiles and so much more, with the chance to feed and even touch the animals. Just don’t get too close to the Snow Leopards – to them, YOU are dinner.
Plus, with Big Cat Experiences including feeding a White Lion and having ‘Tea with the Tigers’ to shadowing a Zookeeper for a day or ‘Meeting the Meerkats’ face to face, there are incredible interactive ways to make your trip that extra bit special.
During my visit to the park, my family and I were treated to a WOW (Walk on the Wild Side) Tour – a walking tour led by James Cork, one of the Animal Park Team. Learning more about the animals before stepping inside an enclosure to hand feed the Wallabies, we also got the chance to hold a Bearded Dragon, stroke a Pygmy Hedgehog, plus get up close and personal with Colonel Custard – a 12ft Albino Burmese Python!
For just £49pp, this is certainly a tour with the WOW factor where you can enjoy once in a lifetime experiences plus finish off with a cuddle with a cute Wallaby - how can you resist?
General admission to Paradise Wildlife Park is £16 per adult and £13 per child and senior citizens. Group discounts are available. For more details visit pwpark.com or call 01992 470 490.
Meanwhile, for adrenaline junkies that love the thrill of the big rides, look no further than Thorpe Park in Surrey. Featured on the popular comedy show The Inbetweeners, the theme park is approximately an hour and a half drive away from Essex – but boy is the journey worth it!
Packed with extreme rides including the world’s most terrifying roller coaster SAW, one of Europe’s fastest coasters Stealth, 10 looping coaster Colossus and the classic Nemesis Inferno, this is not a theme park for the faint hearted.
But none of these compare to their newest ride: The Swarm. As the UK’s first winged roller coaster, the ride promises to test the nerve of even the bravest theme park junkie – so we sent the Enquirer’s SARAH BURKE to Thorpe Park to give it a try!
With nothing below or above you other than air, you are literally sitting on the wings of the coaster, which was surprisingly unsettling once you’d been strapped in – but there’s no ‘easing in’ on this incredible coaster.
Plunging headfirst into a 127ft drop under a plane wing is certainly enough to get pulses racing. Add a flaming fire truck, rotating helicopter blades and the walls of a life size church, this 4.5g-force roller coaster is truly terrifying – but not so bad Sarah didn’t want to queue up and ride the wings of horror again!
For those that love water rides, you can’t miss the Tidal Wave. Rated as the ‘ultimate log flume’ you’re guaranteed to get a soaking – even if you’re only watching. However, if you’re not quite ready for the 85ft drop of Tidal Wave, Loggers Leap is a great alternative for a cool down after a hot summer day.
But there’s still loads of rides in the park to enjoy: from the Samurai, Rush, Slammer, Vortex, Detonator, Quantum and the Rumba Rapids there’s something for everyone.
For more information and to receive a 40% discount on ticket prices visit thorpepark.com.
Alternatively, why not combine the theme park with a zoo experience with a visit to Chessington World of Adventures?
Based in Greater London, this year the park is celebrating its 25th Anniversary and is offering free admission to children on short breaks this August.
With nine themed lands, a zoo, sealife centre and a Safari themed hotel, this is the perfect family day out combining thrilling rides like The Vampire, Rameses Revenge and The Rattlesnake with a variety of animals from Lions, Tigers, Gorillas and Meerkats to Zebras, Reptiles and Sealife. What more could you want from a day with the family?
For more details, visit chessington.com.